CHRONIC NECK PAIN SOLVED-CASE REPORT Jean came to see me in 1997. She had residual neck pain from a car accident 10 years earlier. Her right-sided neck pain radiated into the right shoulder blade area and into her right arm, and over time into her lower back. Her neck was also stiff, with a reduced range of motion, and she noticed her posture was slumping over and getting worse. After her accident 10 years ago, she received 6 months of treatment, which relieved her pain by 90%, but the pain never fully went away, and over the years her pain slowly worsened. She was never told why she still hurt, but medically was given drugs to mask her pain. She suffered for 10 years before seeing my cable TV show “Health Source,” and decided to make an appointment. When I took x-rays, I identified a 119% loss of her neck curve (reversed). She also had a moderate amount of disc degeneration and thinning at one level. In one week of chiropractic treatment, she had significant pain relief (including her arm pain), and after 3 weeks her pain was almost gone, with occasional flare-ups. I gave Jean the option to stop care at that time, but she decided on a “fix” or “corrective” care program, to address the structural spinal problems and subluxations, the disc degeneration and wear, and the long-standing soft tissues residuals from the accident 10 years ago. I treated Jean 3-4 times a week for 3 months, and took new x-rays, which showed a 20% curve improvement. Over time her treatments were reduced, and to this day, Jean comes in once a month for wellness and maintenance care. Her neck, back, and arm feel great, her posture has improved, and she is back to working out on a regular basis. She enjoys pain-free vacations now, and is thrilled she gave chiropractic care another try.
DO I NEED ALL OF THIS TREATMENT? Not necessarily. Not all neck pain cases are as severe as Jean’s, and not all cases require this much work to solve. At our office, we never want you to feel like you are being pushed or asked to receive more care than you feel as though you really need. We offer different care plans, and then let you decide at what pace you want to proceed. We will always give you our ideal treatment recommendations, but keep in mind that the ideal recommendations can be done in stages. Also, if you miss an appointment for any reason, we are never disappointed or upset. Just call us back when you are ready, and we will treat you at whatever level you are comfortable with. Some patients choose pain relief care, some choose fix and corrective care, and some choose wellness and maintenance care to try to prevent problems from returning. Whatever care plan you choose is fine by us.
WHAT IS CAUSING MY PAIN? Most neck pain comes from irritated discs and joints deep in your neck. The discs are the cartilage pads that separate the bones of the neck, and the joints are on the back of the spine that allow your spine to move. Sometimes discs are bulging or herniated, but often they are not. Although muscles are often tender, muscles are rarely the primary source of pain. Muscle problems and soreness goes away quickly, similar to post-workout soreness that goes away in a day or two. Rarely do people call with muscle issues. Spinal disc and joint irritation and pain tend to linger, and flare-ups are common. Also, you know what muscle soreness feels like, and neck pain from irritated discs and joints clearly feels different. When the irritation has progressed enough, you notice the range of motion in your neck is limited, and you fail the “car test,” as I call it. You can no longer see traffic around you or back your car up without first turning your whole body.
I HAVE A DISC HERNIATION. CAN CHIROPRACTIC HELP? Maybe. I work on patients every day that have disc herniations in their neck and back. Often conservative care works, and sometimes not. Chiropractors are trained to identify cases that need medical intervention, and I will refer you to a medical professional if I feel you will not benefit from my treatment. In rare cases, injections and surgery are necessary, but chiropractic care can resume later to improve your neck and spine to try to prevent the pain and disability from returning. Some patients benefit from medical and chiropractic care at the same time.
WHERE DOES DISC AND JOINT IRRITATION COME FROM? Neck and spine damage accumulates over time, and injuries finish you off. Discs and joints are irritated early in life, even from childbirth itself. You bang your head and injure your neck almost daily when learning how to walk and run. Playground sprains, strains, and falls are common. You sit at a school desk with your heavy head down, pulling on the discs and joints for years and years. Your heavy head continues to pull and wear on your neck for many more years at a desk job. Sports injuries, car accidents, and slips and falls finish off the damage. The volcano blows, catastrophe strikes, and you finally call to do something about it. Remember, in most cases, your neck problems have been accumulating for years prior to the onset of pain.
AFTER THE PAIN IS GONE, WHAT NEXT? From visit number 1, I begin teaching you things you can do on your own to reduce pain, speed up improvements, and help prevent problems in the future. These procedures are designed to save you time, pain, and money. I will show you exercises specifically designed to reduce disc and joint stress, improve posture and alignment, and help prevent “widow’s hump” and other unsightly rounded postures. In my opinion, you need to preserve the ability to lift your chin and look up fully, if you want to have a healthy cervical spine throughout your life. If you come to my free Health Class (Wednesday nights and select Saturdays-call for a seat), I will teach you more about ergonomics, proper lifting techniques, improved workstations, and other pain-relieving and pain-preventing strategies. Some patients choose “maintenance” and “wellness” care, as Jean did after her pain was gone. Wellness care is similar to getting the oil changed in a car that is running fine. In my opinion, maintenance and wellness chiropractic care will save you time, pain, and money. It is much easier to keep you well than it is to fix you when you are broken. If you have any questions, please send an e-mail or call the office.
Fuller Chiropractic 827 Main St., Woburn, MA 01801 781-933-3332